Recycling rules can trip you up at the curb

Lids, heavily contaminated containers? Trash 'em

Are you recycling correctly?

BEND, Ore. - Cans, jugs, paper: If it's recyclable, it's going to get compressed into a 2,000-pound bale.

Whether you put your recyclables at the curb or take them to Knott Landfill, most of Central Oregon's recyclables end up at Bend Garbage and Recycling -- and when they leave, all the mashed up material will be re-packed at a sorting facility in Clackamas, then go off to become something new.

"The recyclables go to their perspective markets, like paper may go to a paper mill, the fiber is then made back into paper," Bend Garbage and Recycling President  Brad Bailey said Monday.

Bend Garbage and Recycling begun co-mingled recycling at the curbside in 2007. Bailey said it means more people recycling, and more material that can fit into bins.

"It made it easier, it made it more visible, I think, at the curb as well. It gave people the ability to recycle more," Bailey said.

And that means less trash going to the landfill.

"In the early '90s, the mid '90s, about 25 percent went somewhere besides the landfill, was recycled. Today, we're at about 45 percent," said Deschutes County Solid Waste Director Timm Schimke.

"It's a lot easier -- long ago, it was hard to find recycle sites," said a woman recycling at the county recycling station.

Bailey and  Schimke agree that Bend and Central Oregonians are pretty proactive about recycling. But there's still work to be done -- not only getting more people to recycle, but making sure it's done properly.

"Plastic film, plastic bags -- any sort of plastic, it gets into their equipment, it winds around their equipment and causes a lot of trouble," Bailey said, explaining why those items cannot be tossed in the recycling cart.

He said plastic bags are among the most common non-recyclables that end up in recycling bins.

Containers that have been heavily contaminated can't  be recycled, as well as plastic lids that can get stuck between papers and shut down machinery.

But Schimke says don't worry about a little crust on that sauce jar.

"There's more energy and waste used in the water to clean that," he said. "You want to make it as empty as possible, but there's no need to wash your bottles and your cans before you recycle them."

But heavily contaminated recyclables hurt other recyclables material.

"Material that could have gone as recycling will be contaminated with stuff that is not, and it gets rejected and has to be disposed of as well," Bailey said.

Learn more about what and how to recycle at Deschutes County's Rethink Waste Project Website:

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